Because I’ve reached the point where I am so far along in a series that I need to go back and fill in some gaps in the series guide/story bible, whatever we call that thing, I’m re-reading the first books in the series. Gulp. One thing in particular leaped out, and that is how much a major minor character has changed. Not the description, but his role in the story, and how I portrayed him.
Should I go back and “update” the early books so they blend better with the later ones? For that matter, should I go back to my very first books (Cat Among Dragons 1-4) and re-do them, polish and improve the writing?
Um, well, er, that is, ah . . . I don’t know, but probably not. Maybe. Ish.
Typo clearing and major error repairs are always something to be cleared up, although it’s probably good to wait a little, then do a batch fix for e-books. This is also another argument for an e-book release first. All the things you caught, or that crept in as you fixed other typos, can get flagged before you go to the print version.
In my case, I know that the covers should be redone for the Cat books, and possibly the Colplatschki books as well, just because they are *coughcough* old and genre cover conventions have changed at least four times. Plus the cover of the second Cat book screams “fantasy” when it is mil-sci-fi. I should also go back and change the fonts on the earlier Familiars books, now that I’ve got a series look established.
Cover art is one thing. What about re-doing older books, smoothing them out, improving them, clearing continuity errors [unless you are classic Doctor Who, where continuity is a challenge to be overcome], and tweaking characters so they fit better into later world building?
In the case of the Familiars, I don’t think I’ll go back to Strangely Familiar and tweak how Arthur Saldovado is shown. At that point in the series, the other characters don’t realize that he is more than he appears, and he’s gotten a bit lazy. Thus the opening of the book, and the problem to be solved. To change things there means changing things in books three, four, seven, eight . . . No thank you.
What about re-working the Cat books? Hubris has problems. Major structural problems, because I did not know that head-hopping that way doesn’t work. It doesn’t work, trust me on this. Adding a new point-of-view character half-way through the book and dropping a different one doesn’t work, either, unless you are a lot smoother writer with a lot fatter book. I tried to be a bit experimental, and the experiment flopped. However, some readers like the book. And I don’t think I am good enough to go back, re-write it, and keep the guts of the story intact. (As an aside, the tsunami scene might be the hardest-on-me scene I’ve written to date, and I’ve written some doozies.)
Notice: In none of these cases am I talking about “updating” or “modernizing” or “Improving for modern sensibilities” as some people are doing with classics. These are technical fixes, or typo catches, and the like, not re-writing to change the story to suit what later editors think is appropriate. I’m not going to add, oh, an Azdhag-of-furryness, or a monologue about how patterned Azdhagi are people too and . . . For one, the reader can figure that out, and will. For two, other than the [spoiler!] color patterns that show major genetic problems, Azdhagi don’t care about color patterns. Neither do true-dragons. It doesn’t make sense. Nor would, oh, having Rada Ni Drako scold the Azdhagi for being anti-mammal and complain about discrimination. She knows that going in, and she’ll deal with it. Who knows what will be right-and-proper in another eight years? “Modernized” editions probably won’t age as well as the modernizers believe. Or they’ll get immortalized like Dr. Bowdler.
Typo catches and corrections? Absolutely. Indie and small-press writers are held to higher standards, and we need to produce a cleaner product. Continuity improvements and ret-conning? Maybe, or hand-wavium in a later book (as I just did in the WIP). Cover art updates? Yes. Beyond that? Hmmmmm . . . it really depends on you, the book or story, and the reasons.
And if you don’t have anything else to do, Intensely Familiar, lucky thirteen in the Familiar Tales series, is now available.